Pepe in, Mustafi out: The ideal Arsenal squad shake-up for 2019/20

Premier League giants Arsenal are in need of a squad revolution this summer, as Unai Emery’s men attempt to reestablish themselves amongst English football’s elite.

In this article, we take a look at how, despite a limited budget, the Gunners could make use of players sales to add some long-overdue fresh faces.

Arsenal come up short

A frustrating debut campaign for Unai Emery in north London came to a close late last month, when Arsenal took on Chelsea in the Europa League final.

After finishing in 5th-place in the Premier League table, the capital giants required a victory over their English rivals to secure a much-needed spot in next season’s Champions League.

The latest in a string of underwhelming performances over the final weeks of the campaign, though, eventually culminated in a heavy 4-1 defeat for the Gunners in Baku.

Arsenal’s limited funds

As such, Arsenal are set to ply their trade in European club football’s second-tier for the 3rd-straight season in 2019/20.

Not only does this come as a blow to the club’s hopes of luring top talent to north London this summer, but it also severely restricts the funds available to Unai Emery.

If reports are to be believed, then the Spanish tactician has just £40 million at his disposal to secure new players over the coming months.

Evidently, such a sum is not even remotely close to the kind of financial backing required to build a competitive squad in today’s inflated market.

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN – MAY 29: Unai Emery the head coach / manager of Arsenal during the UEFA Europa League Final between Chelsea and Arsenal at Baku Olimpiya Stadionu on May 29, 2019 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

One source of consolation for the no doubt increasingly-fed up Arsenal fanbase, and Unai Emery, however, have been claims in the media that the club will pump any funds raised through player sales this summer back into their transfer kitty:

As such, below, we take a look at the ideal scenario regarding ins-and-outs at the Emirates this summer, which could help Arsenal to reclaim a spot in the Premier League’s top-4 next season, and push into a new era in north London.

Arsenal departures

As things stand, Unai Emery’s squad features a host of deadwood.

The Gunners’ faithful have long made their feelings clear regarding the likes of Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka, just two of a rake of players who appear to have overstayed their welcome at the Emirates.

In terms of realistic departures, there are as many as 10 players who could be forced out at Arsenal over the coming months.

The 6 most realistic, whilst ensuring some form of decent return, though, appear to be the aforementioned duo of Mustafi and Xhaka, along with Mohamed Elneny, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Sead Kolasinac and, unfortunately for fans of the north Londoners, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

While most, if not all of Arsenal’s supporters would obviously rather that Aubameyang remain, and someone like Mesut Ozil be sold instead, this does not appear a realistic scenario this summer.

As such, with other areas of the capital giants’ line-up requiring significant upgrades, and Alexandre Lacazette still a top-class option to lead the club’s front-line, Aubameyang, who has been linked with a big-money move to China of late, may have to be the man to be sacrificed.

Aubameyang & Lacazette

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his sides second goal with Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at Emirates Stadium on April 1, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

In addition, it should be noted that the game’s evolvement over recent years has seen the use of two strikers progressively die out, and for good reason. Thus, an attack consisting of a pair of out-and-out wingers feeding one centre-forward would likely prove a more progressive route for Arsenal moving forward.

Mesut Ozil’s age, massive wages and sub-par performances last season, meanwhile, make him a next-to-impossible sell.

Calum Chambers would also remain as defensive/midfield cover, while Rob Holding builds his fitness back up.

In terms of fees, were the board at the Emirates to part with the 6 players highlighted above, they could hope to recoup figures in the following regions:

Mustafi – £22 million

Xhaka – £30 million

Elneny – £7 million

Mkhitaryan – £14 million

Kolasinac – £17 million

Aubameyang – £70 million

These potential incomings, when added to Unai Emery’s reported existing budget of £40 million, would see the Arsenal boss handed an updated warchest of £200 million.

Arsenal arrivals

Next comes the fun part – additions.

The sales outlined above would leave the Gunners with holes to fill at centre-half, left-back, in midfield, and on the wings.

A backup goalkeeper/competition for Leno and a centre-forward would also need to be brought in.

Below, a list of potential targets, all of whom could, for different reasons, be on the move this summer, is showcased, along with realistic (albeit in some cases hopeful) fees:

Kieran Tierney – £22 million

Blaise Matuidi – £20 million

Nicolas Pepe – £70 million (Zaha alternative)

Malcom – £30 million (Carrasco and Keita Balde alternatives)

Keylor Navas & Dani Ceballos – £16 million for Navas/loan for Ceballos (with £40 million option/obligation to buy next summer)

Diego Llorente – £35 million (1st-choice Kostas Manolas has tonight joined Napoli) (Stefan de Vrij, Mario Hermoso alternatives)

Danny Sturridge – free

The signing of known Gunners’ target William Saliba would also be sacrificed in this scenario, in favour of a more win-now model.

Total cost: £193 million

A one-window squad revolution is obviously a difficult feat to achieve, but this is as close as a club like Arsenal could hope to get.

Significantly, Nicolas Pepe could also act as an alternative at centre-forward if required, ensuring an injury to Alexandre Lacazette would not leave Danny Sturridge as Arsenal’s only option up top.

Another caveat is that initial first-choice central defensive signing, Kostas Manolas, tonight saw his £32 million Roma release clause activated by Napoli. Either of La Liga pair Diego Llorente or Mario Hermoso, though, would prove more than capable alternatives.

Further investment would obviously be required over the coming windows, particularly in midfield, but in terms of starting XI, the below line-up appears far stronger, and more well-balanced, than that fielded by Unai Emery during the recently-completed 2018/19 campaign:

This would still leave the likes of Mesut Ozil, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Matteo Guendouzi, Rob Holding, Alex Iwobi and more to push for starting berths, with a potential alternative XI highlighted below:

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